Updated - 9/15/02, 10/12/03
[Update 10/12/03: I've included some info about places in Shanghai to train, since a lot of people are also interested in finding places to train here, scroll down to the bottom to read it.]
A lot of people have asked me how to go about training in Beijing or elsewhere in China, and I finally have gotten around to providing the answer. There are literally thousands of places to learn wushu in China, some good, some bad. The one time I went to China to train, I trained with none other than the champion Beijing Wushu Team, the professional wushu team representing the City of Beijing, the capital of Mainland China. So that's the place I am mainly giving information for, but the information here applies to most any training anywhere in China, so please read through this entire page to make sure you know what to expect. I've also added contact information for other training locations at the bottom.
Let me briefly start off with a cursory review of the status of wushu in China - There are many levels of wushu competitions and schools. There are college teams, local teams, youth teams, private schools, fake temples, you name it - quality can vary widely. Just because its in China doesn't mean its good training! The highest level of competition, however are the national professional teams. Beijing's professional Wushu Team, who trains at the Shi Cha Hai Physical Culture School in downtown Beijing, which I have info for at the bottom of this page.
Let me run down some questions you need to think about before planning on going to train in China:
"Do I need to go to China to train?" - Before you go, ask yourself one question - Do you need to go half-way around the world and pay a large sum of your hard earned money to learn what you're going to learn? - I think more often than not for foreigners who go to China, the answer to this question is no! In my opinion, unless you are an advanced level competitor who is serious about improving your level, you don't need to go to China for wushu training. When I was in China last, I saw a group of Americans learning some very basic movements from one of the Beijing team members. It was really confounding to me, why these people chose to spend thousands of dollars (see below for talk about money) to learn something so basic that almost any one (including someone as bad as me) could have taught them much, much cheaper, much closer to home and probably better (because of the language barrier thing, see below for more on this too). Maybe I'm just uptight, but it really seemed like a waste of the opportunity if you're level isn't there. I would suggest if you're not at a high level, you save your money and wait a year or two until you've progressed enough to really make use of the opportunity. If you aren't that serious about improving your wushu, then why waste everyone's time in training, just go and do the tourist thing if thats more interesting to you.
"OK, so what are my other options besides going to China" - Keep in mind that you don't need to go to China to find professional level athletes to teach you. Just here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are more than half a dozen former wushu professionals. Many of them teach classes and/or private lessons. Spending a week sleeping on your Uncle Joe in California's couch and taking some private lessions from a coach here who is just as, if not more qualified than what you'll find in China could be more fruitful as well as more economical. And keep the language barrier in mind too. Most teachers in China don't speak English, almost all the coaches in the US do.
"OK, no matter what you think, I'm going to go! What will it cost?" - It depends. Welcome to China, where everything is negotiable, depending on the sellers mood. To give you an idea of how these things work - When I was in China, I went to a market where they sell knock-off clothes. I went twice actually, the first time was on a saturday afternoon, when the place was packed and the second time was sunday afternoon when the vendors were closing up for the weekend. Prices dropped about 1/3 between these two visits. A similar situation exists for the cost of training wushu in China. Depending on what time of year it is, how many other foriegners are training there at the time, how much the people there like you, the tone of your voice and the alignment of the stars, prices will vary. You also need to look at what you're getting for your money. What is included, what isn't? With the Beijing team the standard deal is usually a room in one of their dormitories (or a nearby hotel if the dorms are booked up), food (in the cafeteria) and training (usually twice a day, about two hours each). That said, the cost could vary anywhere between like $55-$75 a day (again, just a very loose estimate). I've heard that training at some of the other provincial teams is cheaper (as low as $30 a day including room and board). So on a somewhat related note -
"My coach is offering a group trip, should I go? Am I getting ripped off? - I'll probably get in trouble for saying this out in the open, but if your coach or school is offering a trip to train in China (Beijing or otherwise), a simple calculation can help you estimate if you're getting your money's worth or if someone is making money off of you. Take the total cost for the trip (say $2500), then subtract the going fare for a plane ticket to wherever you're going to train (from the West Coast of the US to Beijing can vary between $500-$800 for Air China, up to $1k for airlines like United, but then factor in that your coach is probably getting a group discount if they're bringing a bunch of students). OK, now let's say there's $1500 left. now divide by the number of days you're supposed to be there training (in our example, lets say like a two week trip, that ends up being over $100 a day). So are you getting ripped off? Maybe, maybe not. Think about where you ARE training, and where you're staying. Keep in mind the prices mentioned above, $55-$75 for training and dorm with the Beijing Team, maybe less for other places. But there are other costs you need to factor in too - Look at whether or not your trip includes anything else, like side trips to other cities or sites (Xi'an, Shaolin Temple, etc), or things like an extra nice hotel or something like that. Now also figure in that your coach is really doing you a value-added service by providing you with the opportunity to go there to train and in most cases escort you there and make sure you're getting what you're paying for. For many people, the only way for them to go to China to train is in a group like this, so you need to figure out for yourself if what you're paying is still worth it or not. (well I guess its not such a simple calculation, but still, worth looking at). But still, your coach might be making a nice healthy profit off of you (and getting a free trip to China), so be careful (Buyer Beware!)
"If I go, how long should I go for?" - I think everyone agrees, longer is better. Personally I think if its not at least two or three weeks, its probably not worth it. Its hard for most people to take that much time out of their lives to travel to China, but if you figure that by the time you get over jet lag and get settled in, and if you include travelling time, you're actual useful training days aren't that much if you're only going for a two week trip. A month is good, longer is even better. If nothing else it gives you more of a chance to get the hang of everyday life in China both inside and outside of the sports school.
"I really want to go, but I don't speak Chinese, can I still go?" - Well first of all, if you were to go, would you be going alone? If you have a friend or classmate you're travelling with who speaks Mandarin well, then you'll probably be ok (although your friend might get annoyed at having to translate for you all the time, but that's another story). If you don't have a friend to go with, or a coach to take you, you'll have to go alone. Not speaking chinese makes this hard, but NOT impossible. Most of the athletes who end up teaching you have learned enough basic "wushu english" to teach you, but this will somewhat limit the amount of communication you can have with your instructor and make detailed questions pretty difficult, and their english doesn't go very far outside of wushu class. Also last time I was at the Beijing Team's facility, the people who handle the administrative stuff don't speak English to any degree either (there was one former volleyball player who's English was pretty good, but I'm not sure what exactly her job was). If you ARE brave enough to try it, it helps that you set everything up on the phone beforehand, when you're landing, where you're staying, how long you're staying, what you're going to learn, how much you're going to pay, etc, etc. Maybe if you are lucky, and you're going during the summer, you can find other foriegners there who speak Chinese (and speak English) who can help you out.
OK, I've read it all and I'm ready to go! I really want to train with the Beijing Team! How do I sign up?" - OK, OK, slow your roll for second! First, if you're Chinese isn't that great, find someone who's Chinese is (your coach would be an obvious choice if possible). If your coach knows the people there, that always helps, or if you've got a friend or classmate who's trained there before, that helps too (read the above paragraph about the money). Below is the contact information in English and in Chinese for the Team leader of the Beijing Wushu Team. Keep in mind that the person at she doesn't speak English! Also China is on the other side of the world when you call, so you'll probably need to call in the middle of the night to get someone to answer, ok? (and make sure you do the international long distance country code thing right. That said, here's the info [if you don't have a Chinese language viewer, the Chinese characters will look like a bunch of garbled weird characters]:
[Updated 9/15/02] OK, besides the Beijing team, at what other places can I train? - OK, this is a hard section to write, since again, there are tons of places. And as China is developing, more and more places are opening up (and getting websites). I'm going to limit myself to a few places that I know at least a little bit about:
Wu Bin Wushu Training Center - New institution run by recently retired Beijing Wushu Team Head Coach Wu Bin. With facilities for foreign students[Updated 10/12/03] What about Shanghai? - Matt Wong shared some good information on the message board that I'm pasting in here:
DiTan Sports Center
64264768 (Ms Zhou and Ms Wang)
click here for a translation of an interview with Wu Bin that discusses the facilities. Click Here for the original Chinese article with photos.
Beijing University of Physical Education (BUPE or Beijing Tiyu Daxue) - Particularly you're interested in longer term training, this facility is worth considering. It lacks the nicer facilities of other places, but it is more affordable for stays longer then a month or two. Click here for info on the Wushu Program and Click here for info on registration, etc.
You can also set up training programs at BUPE through several American study abroad companies. Try Educasian.com. From what I understand, the training is the same, but they can provide nicer accomodations (if thats something you need), and help arrange the training (which you might need if your Chinese is limited) and also line up Chinese language classes, etc.
Shanghai City TeamThanks to Matt for the info, if you have any more info on Shanghai training opportunities, let me know. I can't vouch for any of these places as I've never been to any of them.
From multiple accounts, this was not a very good option. Almost all of the people who went to Shanghai checked it out but no one recommended it or went there themselves. The benefit to this school is it has a convenient location in the middle of the city.
Shanghai Chin Woo Federation
Coach: Judy Wang Ying(former changquan champion) This group is very famous and has a wushu for foreigners program but it is quite expensive at $60-$80/day [to my knowledge, the going rate, in Beijing and Guangzhou anyway, is more like $45-$55(depending on guanxi of course)]. I haven't heard of anyone who has been there so I don't have any more info than the website, but the cost turned me away from looking for anymore info.
Shanghai Tiyu Daxue(Physical Education College)
Coach: current coach unkown. former coach was Zhu Dong. This seems to be the preferred place for changquan and taijiquan practitioners. A lot of visitors opt to train here and everyone I spoke to had good experiences here. It is located 20-30 minutes from downtown.
Qing Pu Wushu School
Coach: Huang Xiao Xiong (former national champion) This is the place to go in Shanghai if you want to study nanquan. I have heard that the facilities are very nice (the Chinese team trained there for the 2002 Asian Games), the coach pays a lot of attention to visiting students and it's cheap at $35 a day. The downside is it's location. It is in an industrial zone on the road out to Jiangsu province 60 minutes away from town center. You have to love wushu to go here from what I'm told because there is nothing else to do.
Bottom line is that Shanghai Tiyu Daxue and Qing Pu Wushu school are the two that have come highly recommended in Shanghai. That's what I have found so far.
By the way, if you're interested in training facilities in Shen Zhen, let me know!
If you have any more questions, please email me and I can add them here if they are pertinent.
Also if you have any experiences (good and especially bad) that you think should be shared with other people, please don't hesitate to email me and I can add the info here. In the meanwhile, here are links to some more detailed reports on training in China -
Experience in China in '95
Raffi's Experience in China in '99
Please also read our article -
"So you want to move to China".
Last modified: October 12, 2004
Last modified: October 12, 2004
Send feedback to raffi at beijingwushuteam.com